Mrs. BurgerDogBoy and I spent our Saturday exploring some of Portland’s fabulous neighborhoods. Portland is one of the few fortunate cities in North America to have seemingly completely escaped urban decay – in addition to a still vibrant downtown, the area is still few of vital neighborhoods from back in the day – pockets of commerce that stretch along blocks of streets and avenues scattered here and there. And the best thing about these commerce strips? Most of the emporiums still fall into the category of locally owned mom and pop shops – when I say “strips of commerce”, we’re not talking about the Gap and Karmelkorn!
We tackled east Burnside in the morning, prowling thrift shops for other people’s junk that we could take home and add to our junk. Scored a few niceties.
Then we moved on to St. John’s, a one-time small town, now part of the urban sprawl, and parked a few miles north of the city center, straddling the river and Canada. OK, it’s Washington, but it might as well be Canada.
There’s a fantastic suspension bridge , with two giant Gothic towers, straddling the river to take you from US 30 to St. John’s, and many people believe it to have been designed by the game guy that did the Golden Gate – but it’s a common local misconception. The Golden Gate was designed by Joseph Strauss, and the St. John’s Bridge was designed by one of his chief rivals, D.B. Steinman, who also designed the famous Mackinaw Bridge on the Great Lakes.
Strolling around downtown St. John’s, along North Lombard Street, is a bit like stepping back in time, which is just fine with me. Most of the store fronts are still occupied by businesses that have been there forever, including the two we stopped at, Patti’s Homeplate Cafe, and the Tulip Bakery.
Visiting Patti’s is like going into an old-time diner when one is under the influence of something strong. In addition to the ‘diner part’, there is a costume shop, knick-knacks, a counter selling Avon Products, a juke box that the 45s haven’t been changed since the mid 60s (fine with me), and apparently the place doubles as the local bingo parlor some nights.
The food is strictly American diner cuisine, and it’s as good as any in that segment, and a good value to boot. I went with the Club sandwich, which was ultra-fine, and Mrs. BDB took up company with a BLT. We both remarked on the quality of the bacon, thick-sliced and chewy, and asked the waitress where it came from. She opined “Aloha Meats”, and I don’t have any knowledge of a local purveyor of that name, but there is Ponderosa Meats in ALOHA, Oregon, maybe that is it. On their website, they tout a thick-sliced bacon from Missoula. Will have to definitely check that source out. We loved the people at Patti’s, who were all ultra-friendly and helpful as can be. I loved the background soundtrack, coming from the juke speakers, planted in the ceiling, amidst old 45s dangling on thread from the old acoustic tiles. I played a game with myself during lunch, announcing the artist and year of each new song that came on. Some of the useless trivia that fills my head. My favorite? “Runaway” by Del Shannon, 1961. No, wait, it was “Telstar” by the Tornados (the Venturescovered this later). The Tornados were actually the first British band to hit #1 on the top 100 chart in the US. (See, more useless trivia). Catch the Ventures on tour this year (with founder Don Wilson, here’s their calendar.
The Tulip Bakery, also around since the beginning of time, or at least the beginning of my time, was out of a lot of stock on a late Saturday afternoon, but we managed to score a few sweet and savory pastries and a loaf of bread. Our intention was that these would make up the basis of our Sunday morning breakfast, but some of the treats were not destined to survive that long. My personal favorite was the “Knot”, a pretzel-shaped donut with icing and nuts. These people make Voodoo donuts seem like rank amateurs.
A fun day, and oh yeah, we scored some thrift shop treasures, including a giant wood birdcage from a new eclectic place in St. John’s called “The Fishhead,” just off Lombard.